Shultz (George)

Cold War: MT’s visit to Camp David (Shultz memoirs)

Document type: Press
Source: George Shultz Turmoil & Triumph
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 464 words
Themes: Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Margaret Thatcher arrived for a whirlwind visit on December 22, a Saturday. President Reagan and Nancy were at Camp David, so, with Bud McFarlane , Ambassador Charlie Price , and Rick Burt , I went up by helicopter in the early morning to brief the president before she arrived. At 10:30 sharp, President Reagan drove his golf cart to the Camp David helicopter pad to greet her and take her to Aspen Lodge for a private talk. We convened an expanded meeting and working lunch beginning at 11:15. By 1:30, I was escorting her by helicopter back to Andrews Air Force Base, where her plane waited to take her back to London. She exuded intellectual energy throughout her time with us. The president had immense confidence in her, and her views carried great weight.

She was enthusiastic about Gorbachev , as had been clear from her public statements. But her real purpose was to register her views on my coming meeting with Gromyko . She was a firm supporter of research on strategic defense and wanted to make that clear to the Soviets: “Wedge driving is just not on.” But she worried about the possibility that the United States might go it alone in eventual deployment, thereby “decoupling” itself from Western Europe.

The president said of Mutual Assured Destruction, “I don't think there's any morality in that at all.” President Reagan wanted to transcend it with SDI; Margaret Thatcher considered it essential.

“Next year we will have had peace in Europe for forty years,” she remarked. “That is a very long period of peace. We are going to have to live with that same doctrine for a considerable period of time.” After intense discussion, President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher agreed on a four-point statement, and she announced it with enthusiasm: “First, the United States and Western aim is not to achieve superiority but to maintain balance, taking account of Soviet developments. Second, SDI-related deployments will, in view of treaty obligations, have to be a matter of negotiations. Third, the overall aim is to enhance and not to undermine deterrence. And fourth, East-West negotiation should aim to achieve security, with reduced levels of offensive systems on both sides.”

It was an excellent statement: it differentiated between research and deployment of space-based defense and gave me some running room in Geneva. Since the president had signed on, my instructions would reflect what had been agreed upon. The argument coming from Cap and others at the Defense Department that we should not be willing to discuss SDI in any way was bypassed. I observed that Bud McFarlane had played a useful role in the meetings. I decided to ask him to be part of my Geneva delegation. I wanted him on board and to be a part of the outcome.